Community leaders meet to discuss issues management system

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 | 10:57 p.m. CDT; updated 2:50 p.m. CST, Monday, March 1, 2010

COLUMBIA — Community leaders met Wednesday night to gain a better grasp of "the major goal for 2009" for the Columbia/Boone County Health Department in the proposed fiscal 2009 budget.

The goal is not a simple one and required a lecture-style crash course to understand the Community Issues Management system, also known as CIM, the city is considering adopting in order to improve its ability to use resources where they can make the best impact.

The system was developed at MU's campus by a group led by Christopher Fulcher, co-director of the Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems.

Four cities in the U.S. have found their own uses for the complex, web-based system that allows various data to be aligned with maps and sent representatives to Columbia to present some of CIM's uses. Some of the uses they have found for the program include community development, improving community health by understanding and assessing the social and environmental factors that may affect the health of residents, and increasing the number of tax returns for a targeted area.

"CIM provides public and nonprofit organizations and communities with facilitation technologies that improve choice-making," Fulcher said in his presentation.

The program is in use in Tucson, Ariz.; Detroit; Lehigh Valley, Pa., and Charleston, S.C. The cities worked with organizations, such as the United Way and other human service groups, to apply CIM data to improve community services. This is similar to the prospective plan for Columbia.

Stephanie Browning, director of the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, said the approximately $75,000 system has yet to be purchased by the city but would be covered by an infrastructure grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Some in attendance asked about the practicality of such a system for the average person and about how much time using the program would require of staff.

"Our challenge is to make it really understanding for the folks in our community so they can use this tool in a unique way and make a difference in their community," said Dan Duncan, senior vice president of external relations with United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona.

For now, however, the representatives from the cities are focusing on sharing their knowledge over the course of three days of discussion.

"For us, it's not just where we put money, it's how we engage residents and the community to get results," Duncan said. "We really absolutely need to learn from each other how to do that - it's a key component of CIM."


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